SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A supervisor at McDowell and Walker Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of grains, feeds and other agricultural products, told an untrained employee to enter a grain bin to clear a feed buildup that clogged a silo entry point at the company’s Afton facility on Nov. 29, 2021.
While attempting to clear the buildup, the conveyor transporting the feed into the silo activated, partially engulfing the worker in leftover feed. The employee avoided serious injury with help from a co-worker.
An inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that McDowell and Walker Inc. exposed the employee to engulfment hazards by failing to adhere to legally-required grain-handling safeguards. Specifically, the company failed to:
- Provide the employee a required body harness with lifeline or boatswain’s chair and other rescue equipment before entering the grain bin.
- De-energize, lock out and tag the conveyor and chutes transporting the feed to prevent them from operating with the employee in the bin.
- Complete an entry permit to control hazards in the grain bin prior to directing workers to enter.
- Train workers on grain-handling hazards, including entering confined spaces, loading feed into trucks, bagging feed, transporting feed into bins and related housekeeping duties.
OSHA also identified numerous other hazards at the Afton facility related to incomplete programs to reduce flammable grain dust accumulations on ledges, floors, equipment and other exposed surfaces; blocked exit routes; fall and tripping hazards; inadequately anchored and guarded drill press; and incomplete inspection certifications.
OSHA cited the company for two willful, nine serious and three other-than-serious violations of workplace safety standards and proposed $203,039 in penalties.
“McDowell and Walker Inc.’s failure to follow required safety practices nearly cost a worker his life,” explained OSHA Area Director Jeffrey Prebish in Syracuse, New York. “They must provide training and equipment as required by OSHA’s grain handling facilities standard to ensure workers are protected from grain handling hazards.”
This employer meets the requirements for OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
OSHA’s Grain Handling Safety Standards focus on the grain and feed industry’s six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, “struck by,” combustible dust explosions and electrocution. Learn more about OSHA and agriculture industry safety resources.
Founded in 1955, McDowell and Walker is a locally owned, family business that opened its first feed mill and farm supply retail store in Delhi. The company purchased the Afton mill in the early 1970s and has supplied Broome, Cortland, Chenango, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, and Tioga counties with feed, fertilizer, seed, and other agricultural supplies since.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.